Top Kayakers Compete in Reno


Top whitewater kayak athletes and world and national champions including Eric Jackson, Jay Kincaid, Tanya Shuman, Brooke Winger, and Andrew Holcombe battle it out for top honors at the festival.


Competitions include an Open Freestyle rodeo for amateur athletes, a professional invitational freestyle rodeo, a boater-cross race, and a down-river race taking place less than an hour from Reno on the Yuba River. In addition to the pro freestyle finals, attendees can get into the action with free clinics for all skill levels taught by the pros, demos, an expo, live music and more.


“Going into our third year, we’re seen a reemergence in our downtown core and entertainment district and a river filled with kayakers, rafters, and water enthusiasts looking to have fun in the river — it’s truly helping to build the area as an adventure destination with the added value of gaming,” said Deanna Ashby, executive director of marketing for the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA).


Top whitewater kayakers scheduled to compete at the Reno River Festival include:


Eric Jackson is the current World Freestyle Kayak Champion, winner of last year’s Reno River Festival and founder of Jackson Kayak. Eric (EJ to most) is a three-time Olympic athlete who helps to push the sport as head of Team JK (Jackson Kayak).


Jay Kincaid is a northern Nevada local and the 2003 World Freestyle Kayak Champion and finished second in last year’s Reno River Festival following his crowning as champion in 2004. Jay has every intention of bring the RRF crown back to the Reno Tahoe area.


Tanya Shuman is one of the top women boaters in the nation. She has represented the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team since 1999 and is ranked top five in the world according to Playak.com


Brooke Winger, a four-time national champion, is definitely up for the challenge providing for a great spectator experience. Brooke was the female freestyle champion of the 2004 Reno River Festival. Brooke manages a professional career in physical therapy with her paddling life and still is considered one of the most talented athletes in freestyle kayaking.


Andrew Holcombe was ranked number 28 according to Playak.com and was a silver medalist in the 2003 International Freestyle Paddling Competition. Holcombe is a third-generation kayaker who was raised on the water, spending 200-300 days per year over the last decade boating.


Jimmy Blakeney, 2003 U.S. National Freestyle Champion and five-time member of the U.S. Men’s Freestyle Kayak Team, is an advocate for the sport of kayaking by helping to create whitewater opportunities across the country and by sitting on advisory boards for a variety of kayak parks.


Nikki Kelley, 2005 winner of the Reno River Festival Women’s Open Boater Cross and number 19 on the Playak.com list, is fearless in the water.


Bryan Kirk is a five-time member of the U.S. Men’s Freestyle Kayak Team and was the 2002 Bronze World Freestyle medalist. He has more than 18 years whitewater kayaking experience, including professionally competing in freestyle events around the world.


Tanya Faux, an Australian kayaker and outdoor recreation instructor, Faux was the 2005 Women’s Invitational Freestyle champion at the Reno River Festival and Australian Whitewater Freestyle Kayaking Champion in 2004. She also placed second in the Canadian Freestyle Kayaking Competition in 2003.


Ben Guska, from Palm Bay, Florida, has participated in several sports and started kayaking when he was 15. After entering some competitions, he began traveling shortly after high school and has been competed ever since. He has since relocated his home base to Colorado to be closer


Todd Baker, 18, has been kayaking for six years and most recently took first place at the 2005 Flaming Gorge Games Freestyle. Baker is known for his passion and being an advocate for the sport of freestyle kayaking


Emily Jackson, member of the famous Jackson family, wowed the crowd at the 2005 Reno River Festival placing second in the Women’s Invitational Freestyle and third in the Women’s Open Boater Cross at the age of 15. Her river running and creeking skills have soared in the past year opening up a whole new world of paddling.


Jutta Keiser is the 2005 World Freestyle Champion and lives in Germany. When she is not pulling off big tricks in the water, Keiser likes to mountain climb, snowboard, read and cook.


Kristen Podolak was the silver medalist at the Freestyle World Championships in 2005 in Australia. She lives outside of Washington D.C. in Maryland and when not working full time for National Geographic Magazine, is usually paddling her hometown course, the Potomac River. She has competed in the U.S., Canada and Australia.


Dane Jackson, an amazing 12-year-old kayaker and son of Eric Jackson and younger brother to Emily Jackson, has come a long way in his paddling skills during the last year. In 2006 he is focused on his big-wave surfing and has his eyes set on making the 2007 World Championship team. If his performance on the Zambezi and Nile Rivers are any indicators, Dane Jackson’s 2006 will be filled with many new accomplishments.


For information on the 2006 Reno River Festival or the athletes competing in this year’s event, visit www.renoriverfestival.com. For more information about Reno-Tahoe, America’s Adventure Place or to book a trip, logon to www.visitrenotahoe.com or call 800-FOR-RENO (800-367-7366).


The Reno River Festival is held at the $1.5 million Truckee River Whitewater Park, located in the heart of Reno’s booming downtown business and arts district. The park, with rapids rated class 2 and 3, is both Nevada’s and the region’s first whitewater park and kayak slalom racing course, totaling 2,600 feet in length and featuring north and south channels that surround an outdoor amphitheater and park. The river channel has been engineered to enhance the kayaking experience, with 11 drop pools and strategically placed boulders, a slalom racing course, and 7,000 tons of smooth flat rocks along the shores for easy river access and spectator seating.

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